Energy Floors Move From The Nightclub To The Ticket Office

Russian Railways Research Insitiute has signed a contract to develop power-generating floor panels for ticket halls in stations.

Energy Floors

Asmall Dutch innovator is helping Russian Railways to harness the power of its customers. The project would make it the first train company to harvest energy from passenger footfall in its busiest stations.

The technology uses a dynamo mounted in floor panels to create enough electricity to help power wall lighting and walkways. Russian Railways Research Institute, founded in 1918, and Energy Floors, established in 2007, aim to produce a durable, low profile floor panel for locations that carry the heaviest traffic.

Sustainable Dance Club built the first sustainable dance floor in 2008. The patented technology, which contributes to the electricity consumed by floor and wall lighting, soon grabbed the attention of promoters and event organisers. It now organises events and permanent installations around the globe. Many of its customers are big brands that want to focus on sustainability but also to involve the public.

Michel Smit, CEO of Energy Floors, says the Russian Railways product will be different. "You do not need a shiny disco floor that lights up when you walk on it. The panels will be on a larger scale, more durable with a lower cost: something that can withstand the weather in Moscow when one hundred thousand people are walking over it. That's the physical design but the technology inside is the same."

Energy Floors signed a five-year development cooperation contract in July 2013 with RRRI, which is part of RZhD, the Russian rail operator. Based in Rotterdam's RDM Campus Innovation Dock, Energy Floor has built an annual turnover of a million euros in just six year from launch.

Next year it will do a test installation in Russian Railways' facilities, where people buy tickets, check in and walk over the floor. The floor will become part of a smart grid," says Smit. The installation will also use solar and wind power. If the test works, then it will be rolled out in real live situations.

Energy Floors invented the technology, filed for the patents and was awarded them. Now it aims to expand outside of the niche market of entertainment. "There are a lot more places where people are walking than dancing: public spaces, squares but also trains, airports and commercial real estate."

The company ships its dance floors to events, and keeps some floors permanently abroad to reach distant locations more cheaply and quickly. Installations range from two square meters to two thousand.

The electro mechanical charge produced by the dynamo is 50 percent efficient at converting energy from movement into usable electricity. "Our goal is also to educate people about what energy is and how we can use it," says Smit.

The company also makes sustainable lighting, and a bar system called DrinkWaterBar, which encourages club goers to drink water instead of cola. The company says each half liter of cola, requires 167 liters of water to produce and transport. If you must have flavourings, DrinkWaterBar can add a little syrup. "It is good for the environment but the public can participate."

Smit is careful not to raise expectations too high: "Lighting up the environment around the people or powering low power systems like a cell telephone is possible. If clients think that you can power your whole office that is just not possible. Our goal is to bring those perceptions closer together. That's design, the other way around."

RRRI is also investigating technologies that would use the motion of trains and cars to create electricity. Smit says such projects are viable, though would use a different technology to the Energy Floor.

The products are as much about attitudes as creating electricity: "If you want to change the world, you must activate the public and make them part of you activity."